Dear Colleagues

There are quite a few people who believe that one of the key aspects to promoting increased peace and understanding in the world is through facilitating positive interaction between individuals and communities from diverse backgrounds. The assumption is by learning about each other's cultures, languages, lives, that people can do discover what they have in common, as well as explore their differences and possibly build long-term friendships that can have a positive impact on the world.

In recent years, there has been increasing discussion about the role of peace tourism, as well as voluntourism (where individuals visit other countries and engage in community service projects in addition to seeing the sights), and eco-tourism (trying to minimize the impact on the environment).

As with any activity, travel has both potentially negative and positive impacts. The negative impacts include significant environmental impacts through plane and other high-carbon forms of travel, destruction of local environments, sometimes contributing to exploitation of locals who are not treated fairly in the service economy, lack of respect for local traditions and cultures and more. On the other hand tourism conducted in partnership, that seeks to develop a sustainable form of economic development, minimizes negative environmental impacts and facilitates true learning and exchange between cultures can have a life-long impact.

There are a number of organizations and initiatives that are working on the issues of peace and tourism, ranging from policy focused institutions, organizations focused on the environment and others on connecting travelers around the world.

Here are a few key organizations (feel free to suggest others. Note a listing here doesn't provide an endorsement, we are only providing information on relevant resources).

COUCHSURFING- is an international non-profit network that connects travelers with locals in over 230 countries and territories around the world. Today, over a million people who might otherwise never meet are able to share hospitality and cultural understanding.  CouchSurfing's initial focus was on hosting and 'surfing' (staying with a local as a guest in their home). Alongside these core experiences, we now also facilitate a growing array of activities and events.

SERVAS is an international, non-governmental, multicultural peace association run by volunteers in over 100 countries. Founded in 1949 as a peace movement, Servas International is a non-profit organization working to build understanding, tolerance and world peace. We operate through a network of Servas hosts around the world who are interested in opening their doors to travellers , and of Servas travellers who want to get to know the heart of the countries they visit.

THE INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR PEACE THROUGH TOURISM (IIPT) is a not for profit organization dedicated to fostering and facilitating tourism initiatives which contribute to international understanding and cooperation, an improved quality of environment, the preservation of heritage, and through these initiatives, helping to bring about a peaceful and sustainable world. It is based on a vision of the world's largest industry, travel and tourism - becoming the world's first global peace industry; and the belief that every traveler is potentially an "Ambassador for Peace. A primary goal of IIPT is to mobilize the travel and tourism industry as a leading force for poverty reduction.

VOLUNTEERS FOR PEACE - Our goal is to work toward a more peaceful world through the promotion of International Voluntary Service (IVS) projects, historically known as International Workcamps, and the exchange of volunteers. Our projects provide intercultural education through community service. We offer placement in over 3000 IVS projects in more than 100 countries each year, including over 40 in the USA. At each project, volunteers from diverse backgrounds, typically from four or more countries, work and live together like a family. The sharing of everyday life, both with the local community and among the international volunteers, is an integral part of the learning and serving experience. Most projects are open to volunteers with any type of background and do not require any specific professional or language skills.

GLOBAL EXCHANGE - REALITY TOURS - We envision a people centered globalization that values the rights of workers and the health of the planet; that prioritizes international collaboration as central to ensuring peace; and that aims to create a local, green economy designed to embrace the diversity of our communities. The idea that travel can be educational, fun, and positively influence international affairs motivated the first Global Exchange Reality Tours. Our tours provide individuals the opportunity to understand issues beyond what is communicated by the mass media and gain a new vantage point from which to view and affect US foreign policy. Travelers are linked with activists and organizations from around the globe who are working toward positive change. We also hope to prompt participants to examine related issues in their own communities.


Two new companies that are not directly related to peace but provide an interesting opportunity for anyone around the world to host someone and earn funds, and for travelers to find innovative places to stay for travelers are:


WIMDU  is the central platform for all types of private accommodation and unites travellers with hosts around the world. The platform offers a diverse selection of unique accommodation all over the world Anybody can offer their flat, house or even a room in a shared flat to travellers. The host benefits from additional income and provides travellers with a completely new perspective on the holiday destination.


AIRBNB- We connect people who have space to spare with those who are looking for a place to stay. Guests can build real connections with their hosts, gain access to distinctive spaces, and immerse themselves in the culture of their destinations. Whether it's an urban apartment or countryside castle, Airbnb makes it effortless to showcase your space to an audience of millions, and to find the right space at any price point, anywhere.

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Tags: Environment, Guide, Impact, Peace, Resources, Service Learning, Tourism


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Comment by Paul Ogalo on April 11, 2010 at 5:32pm
I appreciate this information. We have also young organization called CREATA struggling to promote peace and social justice through exchange and cultural dialogue. Currently we are interested on partners who are interested in coming to East Africa to work with us. You can find more information through
Comment by Alonso Munoz on April 9, 2010 at 7:11pm
Ecotourism is the fastest growing segment of the world’s largest industry, offering the promise for sustainable development in communities around the globe. Yet this potential is threatened by those who claim to do ecotourism but don’t really live up to its standards. The U.N.-mandated University for Peace’s Centre for Executive Education is offering the course: ‘Ecotourism: How to start, grow and manage your own eco-enterprise’ from August 8 - 15 in Costa Rica. This workshop, combining classroom sessions with field visits to study successful businesses, provides a unique opportunity to learn how to do ecotourism right in the country that defined the concept. For more info., see: ( )
Comment by Saifora Khan on April 8, 2010 at 6:59am
The other one is the 'World learning", An organization partnered with the state department that arranged our visit to USA from Afghanistan. I was in the USA from feb13-March 8th and it was a state department funded visit. But the Organizers were the world learning. A very cherished and organized visit which was properly managed.
Comment by Victor Ezlien-Taylor on April 7, 2010 at 6:57pm
thanks for your recommendations
Comment by ToddWalters on April 7, 2010 at 4:34pm
Please also check out International Peace Park Expeditions and our three pronged approach to peacebuilding, tourism, experiential education and environmental peacebuilding.
Comment by Craig Zelizer on April 7, 2010 at 4:18pm
Thanks for the recommendations.
Comment by sarah elder on April 7, 2010 at 4:04pm
I work as the volunteer coordinator for USIT, the leading NGO involved with intercultural exchange in the Republic of Ireland. We send volunteers overseas on Internships and volunteer placements. We work with various NGO's worldwide to recruit suitable volunteers for their projects, if anyone is interested there are some details on our website
It is so amazing to hear the feedback from returned volunteers, and I thoroughly recommend a more "local" travel experience to anyone that will listen! There's nothing like living with a host family and helping in the community to really learn about a culture :)
Comment by David J. Smith on April 7, 2010 at 3:06pm
USIP also has a excellent Special Report (October 2009) by Raymond GIlpin and Martha Honey on "Tourism in the Developing World: Promoting Peace and Reducing Poverty" at
Comment by Josh Weiss on August 19, 2009 at 10:53pm
you might want to look at the work we are engaged in as well with the Abraham Path -- see
Comment by Scott D. Meyer on August 13, 2009 at 1:42am
Love the thoughts Craig and commenters. I've started a travel video blog and look forward to thinking about this issues and reviewing these sites in the coming week. As a firm believer in the possibility of positive peace through interaction, I'm anxious to hear more what others think. You can check the first video out talking with an active couchsurfer. Let me know your thoughts!

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